Asserting women’s rights

Nomsa Daniels of New Faces New Voices, which was established by Graça Machel to accelerate women’s economic empowerment, joined Gilbert on the discussion panel.

She painted a rather bleak picture of the restrictions women across Africa face in asserting their right to economic participation — whether in the workplace or in the field of entrepreneurship.

“I believe that, if Africa is to achieve inclusive growth, we have to bolster the participation of women in our economy. This means we have to look at the constraints and obstacles they face as economic participants.

“Unless we do this, our economies will grow, but women will continue to suffer disproportionately from poverty, and their incomes and ­living standards will be lower,” she said.

Although the picture across the ­continent was far from encouraging she said slow progress was being made to address the continuing ­discrimination. “If we are 50% of the population in Africa, why should we not be 50% of parliamentarians, government ministers or bank ­executives?” she argued.

Daniels suggested that some ­progress could be made if states and companies applied a set of guidelines produced by the United Nations to reverse the current state of affairs.

The list of suggestions include establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality; treating all women and men fairly at work; ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of both male and female workers; promoting education, training and professional development for women; implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women; promoting ­equality through community initiatives and advocacy and measuring; and publicly reporting on progress to achieve gender equality.

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